Opening wide the pearly gates

    An issue pertinent to the University of California has prompted me to ask once again: What does it take to be a Californian? The question confuses many former immigrants and out-of-state students attending UC schools.

    Pat Leung
    Guardian

    The search for an answer begins with $14,933. That is the average yearly UC tuition for international and out-of-state students. It makes parents cringe and forces many students to work or be much more frugal than their peers. I am paying this price, so I can gripe.

    The lines have not been drawn, but the California State Assembly passed a bill Jan. 17 allowing undocumented immigrants with proven California ties to be eligible for the same tuition as California residents at UC campuses. The reputable university system is finally in tune with state and junior colleges, which have already guaranteed the lower tuition due to a previous state law.

    True Californians must be “”residents,”” right? I consider myself a resident; I live here. Immigrants, documented or not, are also residents. But state law provides them with no support in secondary education, because there are clauses and strings attached. One must show “”proven California ties.””

    I cannot understand why undocumented immigrants deserve such grace. I cannot overlook the fact that nonimmigrant, out-of-state students also receive the same privileges in this plan. Under this law, all students who have lived in California for at least three years, and who are California high school graduates and have applied for or already possess legal status, would be eligible for the much lower in-state tuition.

    To further review the matter, I will take the example of myself. Although I was overseas for my middle school and high school years, I am a U.S. citizen. I lived in California for nine years and my parents own a house in the Bay Area. Yet at UCSD, I cannot pay the resident tuition rate.

    With the decision to give immigrants and out-of-state students more bang for their buck comes great strides toward a more balanced system.

    I have read that the Assembly needed a lot of time to decide because of legal, financial and moral issues. That last one must be a joke, because we all know how many Californians feel about those Mexicans supposedly stealing across the border by night. Judging by the fact that some of them cross the border at 4 a.m. and go back late in the evening, rewarding some of their cohorts who have settled down on the good side is not such an immoral thing to do. Just because they crossed the border for the long-term does not mean they work any less hard. They are a blessing to many industries, with the amount of effort they put in for such pitifully low wages.

    The UC Regents want liability protection, which is understandable. The only financial concern is the possible $2 million to $4 million change that might bite into their six-digit salaries. If they are so concerned about that, they can just raise the overall in-state tuition fee slightly.

    There are thousands of situations similar to mine, each with a valid argument for getting a tuition break. I am impressed by the attitude of the Assembly and the regents in extending consideration to a larger entity of students. At least the policy guarantees that students with near-4.0 grade point averages will not be excluded for lack of documentation.

    Since most applicants are documented, according to sources, there should be little trouble implementing this plan. History is on the side of the opponents, though. A 1985 court ruling stating that undocumented immigrants should receive the same tuition benefits as legal California residents was reversed soon after its inception.

    In the meantime, I will continue to support lower tuition fees for those who have been here too long to not be honored with California residency.

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